Autistic People Aren’t Robots

If anything, our feelings are a thousand times more intense than yours.

It’s a strange sensation, discovering that you are part of a minority at the age of 58. This is pure speculation on my part, but if you know something like that all your life, I assume you would not be taken by surprise when people around you spouted ignorant assumptions about who you are. Sure, those prejudices would still be unacceptable and annoying, and even potentially scary, but they wouldn’t shock you. You’d be more prepared for the stupidity by the time you were pushing 60 and had dealt with it all your life.

On the other hand, I feel as though I’m in a frequent state of shock ever since I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder back in December. This is an entirely different point of reference for me. I’m learning that, in addition to a drastic alteration in the lens through which I view the world, my diagnosis has also altered the way that people look at me.  

Had I thought things through, perhaps I wouldn’t have disclosed my diagnosis to so many people. But I felt vindicated and relieved at the time. Finally, an explanation! I felt like shouting it from the rooftops. That, and my particular place on the autism spectrum comes with a self-destructive need to overshare.

Whatever. It’s out there. You can’t un-ring a bell.

What really astounds me is that many of these people have known me for years, and yet they’re treating me differently now that I have this label. In a few cases, I could actually see the moment their view of me changed. It is almost as though I’m their eye doctor, and they’re looking at me through that lens machine, and I’m flipping the lenses, and saying, “Better (click), or Worse?”

Worse, apparently.

I came upon a quote recently in an article in Vanity Fair about the rampant toxic racism that was behind the scenes during the filming of the series, “Lost”. I think it applies to my situation as well:

“No one wants to be defined by one aspect of their identity, but neither do people want to feel forced to suppress who they are so that others never feel any discomfort”

Maureen Ryan, in “Lost Illusions: The Untold Story of the Hit Show’s Poisonous Culture

The gut reaction in these situations seems to be to try and “save me” from my diagnosis. “You don’t look autistic!” “That can’t be right. You’ve always seemed normal to me.” “That can’t be right. If anything, you feel too much rather than not enough.” “Why are you making such a big deal out of this?” “I would have never guessed by looking at you.”

Hello! I’m still me! I promise I’m not contagious. And autism is a diagnosis, not a jail sentence. I’m actually coming to think of autism as a “trait”, like blue eyes and brown hair, rather than a “diagnosis”, which implies that I’m sick or flawed and need to be cured. There is no cure for autism, and even if there were, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t seek it, because it would change the person that I am. I don’t really want someone experimenting with my brain function to that extent.

Of course, that’s easy for me to say, having been able to “pass” as relatively “normal” for decades. Not every autistic person has that luxury. I’m considered to be a level 1 autistc, in other words, I could use some support with my social interactions and my executive function and coping skills, but I’m definitely not a severe autistic.

Level 3 requires very substantial support, often 24 hours a day, and can come with an inability to verbalize and a state of near-constant agitation. Some, but not all people on level three have a low IQ. It would be all but impossible to live independently on that level. Those on that part of the spectrum may appear to be totally unaware of the outside world. But scientists are starting to discover that that may or may not be the case.

I watched a documentary called The Reason I Jump, and now I’m reading the book it was based on. But in the documentary, you meet two non-verbal autistics who learn to spell out their thoughts by pointing to one letter at a time on a chart. And it turns out that they may not speak, but they, in fact, have very intelligent thoughts. No wonder the meltdowns of some non-verbal (along with some verbal) autistics can get violent. Can you imagine being coherent on the inside, but being unable to pierce the chaotic autistic wall that surrounds your brain in order to make your thoughts known to others? That has got to be frustrating beyond belief.

I know what it’s like to be misunderstood. There’s no bigger insult than not being taken seriously. It’s horrible when people constantly seek outside verification before they will believe what you are saying. This has happened to me my entire life, and it hurts.

The worst mistake a neurotypical person can make is to assume that autistic people do not have feelings. If anything, our feelings are a thousand times more intense than yours. It’s like being a full-body burn victim and having people poking you all the time. Our biggest societal challenge, in my opinion, is that many of us have varying degrees of skill at expressing those feelings or properly interpreting the feelings of others.

I understand that Hollywood has done a lot to reinforce the robotic stereotype. Rain Man is only the tip of the cinematic iceberg.

Believe me, we feel. We learn, we grow, and we aren’t going anywhere. So, please be kind.

To quote Shakespeare, “If you prick us, do we not bleed?”

We sure as hell do. But we might be doing so internally. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

Read any good books lately? Try mine!


It’s All Her Fault

When faced with humiliation, real or imagined, blame the woman.

Warning: This post, with its descriptions of misogyny and abuse, may be triggering for some and inappropriate for others. Proceed with caution.

I’m in a foul, foul mood, dear readers. I have had it up to here. And by here, I mean someplace about 100 feet above your head. Yeah. That high.

A few things happened today to put me in this mood. First, I went swimming with Dear Husband, and while he was doing his laps, the guy on the other side of me, whom I had never seen at the pool before and hope to never see again, decided to take a break from his exercise routine to take an inappropriately long look at my breasts while I was doing my workout. He had a naughty little smile on his face while he did it, like the two of us were playing this bawdy game together. Suddenly I felt like I was putting on a show for this pig, when all I wanted to do was exercise. It made me feel like going home and taking a bath in bleach.  

I didn’t report him to management, because technically, looking at someone is not a crime. And as is so often the case in moments like these, it would be his word against mine. Who cares that I felt like I had been assaulted? Who cares that it was an act of aggression?

I also said nothing to DH, because he struggles to think badly of anyone, so he questions my judgment when I have those thoughts myself. And even if he knew, what could he have done? Gotten into a fist fight at the YMCA? Please.

But I know what I saw. I had just been victimized by a random male who knew he could get away with it, and who felt he had the right to do so. The last thing I needed on top of that was to have to justify my victimization to someone else. It’s sickeningly common for people to assume that if a woman is upset about something, she must be exaggerating. Nope. We’re just fed up with a lifetime of this type of bs.

Later, when I got to work and started scrolling through the news feed, I stumbled upon an article about Anne of Cleves, the fourth wife of Henry VIII, King of England. Fortunately for her, she was only married to him for about 6 months, and actually managed to get away without being beheaded like her successor, Catherine Howard would be.

It seems that their marriage was never consummated, and good ol’ Henry, who was 49 at a time when the life expectancy was 50, claimed that this had nothing to do with him. Forget about the fact that he never had any more children even though he had two more wives. Forget about the fact that he was already morbidly obese and suffered from gout and an ulcerated leg that refused to heal long before he married Anne of Cleves. He almost certainly had a traumatic brain injury and type II diabetes as well, which, just sayin’, does not exactly scream virility to me.

No. The lack of consummation, Hank claimed, was because Anne of Cleves was so unattractive that he wasn’t aroused by her. His proof of potency was his assertion that he had had two wet dreams during that time. All hail the holy ejaculate!

Yup. When faced with humiliation, real or imagined, it’s always preferable to blame the woman. And to add insult to injury, say that she’s ugly in the sure and certain knowledge that everyone will believe that rather than consider your unmistakable health issues. Yeah. Of course that will work. Because it actually does, doesn’t it? Heaven forefend a woman might be equal to or even superior to the men around her in health or in any other way.

I almost got sucked in to defending Anne of Cleves’ looks, based on all the paintings of her that are extant. But really, what does that have to do with anything? That unwarranted critique was merely a way to divert our attention from even uglier behavior.

Just ask Mary Magdalene what it’s like to have your reputation trashed in order to downplay your value to society. She figures highly in the gnostic gospels as vital to Jesus’ ministry, and is even called an apostle. The amount of money she provided to that ministry also indicates that she was a woman of wealth. And yet, two centuries later, she’s called a prostitute and it’s claimed that she was possessed by seven demons. There’s no evidence of this in the bible, by the way. But she’s being bad-mouthed to this very day. We can’t have it seem as though Jesus gave his seal of approval to women having power, now can we?


That got me thinking about how so many men of power abuse women emotionally, reputationally, and physically, in a variety of sick and twisted ways, and yet these men still get away with it. Still!

Case in point (and yet another thing I got to read about on this very same day): The trial of E. Jean Carroll v. Donald Trump has finally begun. For those who haven’t heard, he is once again being accused of sexually assaulting a woman. Her evidence is pretty compelling. She has testimony from two people whom she talked to immediately afterward. She has testimony from the venue as to how the act could have gone unnoticed. She has testimony from a family member who explains why she didn’t come forward for so long.

Oh, and then there are the 19 other women who have accused Trump of similar behavior. I’m thinking in particular of two others, Jessica Leeds and Natasha Stoynoff, whose stories of being assaulted by Trump show an almost identical modus operandi to the one that he spelled out so graphically to Billy Bush. The man openly bragged about grabbing women by the p****. We have all heard the tape or at least read the transcript. And yet he still got elected! Still!

Trump’s defense is as follows: she’s not his type. Even though he himself mistook a picture of Carroll from that time to be that of Marla Maples, who was most definitely his type. The woman’s looks are the thing that should be put on trial, per Trump. And they have been. Oh yeah. Let’s worry about what the victim looks like, then as well as now. That’s important when you get raped, isn’t it?

Well, now, if the court finds her unattractive, then clearly Trump must be innocent!

( ͠° ͟ʖ ͡° ) ╭∩╮

The man is a pig. Is anyone surprised? He has centuries of porcine examples from which to model his behavior. The fact that these men have been given a pass only demonstrates how fragile our cloaks of civility actually are. Boys will be boys. It’s so common it’s been normalized. So much so that many women in this country are proud to step up and defend such outrageous acts.

I would say that women who defend pigs are the ultimate betrayal, but really, that’s twisted logic. It oozes out from the same fetid cesspool that the belief that women are “asking for it” comes from. Because, let’s face it: Women have as much right to be ignorant, prejudiced, backward and outrageous as men do.

As much as I love the Me Too movement and think that it was long overdue, I wish it had instead been called the You Too movement. Because the focus needs to be placed on the scumbags who are perpetuating the crimes, rather than the women who are being re-victimized by society if they have the courage to speak out. The onus should be on those who are committing the crimes. The women on the receiving end of this outrageous behavior should not then have to be forced to fight for their reputations and good names.

Yes, like the vast majority of women, I have been groped, raped, assaulted, violated, humiliated, emotionally abused, stared at, and otherwise treated like a plaything that doesn’t have any rights at all. What are you looking at? Me? Get a clue. Look at the men. Look at all the freakin’ men. Focus on them and what society allows them to do.

In proximity to most women are whole herds of parasitic pigs who are mucking about, waiting for their opportunity to take what they want and then defecate on the victim’s reputation. These women don’t want them. They find them repugnant and debilitating. And yet the pigs persist. They don’t even allow women to control their own bodies.

And as a side note, a group of pigs is called a team. Isn’t that interesting? Isn’t that scary?

These pigs will not only survive, but thrive, because we allow them to lurk in the underbrush. We remain silent. We provide them with excuses. We do not hold them accountable. We continue to support them and allow them to hold power.

I’m not saying that all men are victimizers or that all women are victims. Far from it. But let’s address the biggest piggy in the room of all: The good guys are doing nothing to stop this. But don’t get all smug. Most of us women aren’t doing anything, either. With our sheer inertia, with our silence, and our tendency to avert our eyes, we all prop up this sickening system of abuse. Shame on us.

This Earth Day, Consider Rewilding Your Yard

Don’t constantly battle nature in order to maintain a lawn.

Nature, when left to its own devices, takes care of itself. For example, I was surprised that so many people couldn’t believe that the land around Mount Saint Helens recovered so much on its own after the catastrophic eruption in 1980. Within 35 years, a mere blink of an eye on a cosmic scale, the land was renewing itself. (Check out this article for more details, and if you have more time, check out this amazing PBS Documentary.)

Humans have been shown, time and time again, that our hubris can be catastrophic. We manipulate ecosystems to “make improvements” only to learn, after the damage has been done, that nature’s original plan served a purpose. If the earth were sentient enough to make improvements of its own, I’m convinced that the first thing it would do is get rid of humans. From nature’s standpoint, that would be a story with a happy ending.

And yet, here we are, still tearing down mountains and paving over prairies and flooding valleys. We really should be ashamed of ourselves. But we’re not going anywhere. As a matter of fact, we are overpopulating this planet. I won’t go into the disturbing specifics. Check out this article if you’d like to know more.

So the best we can do at this point is tread as lightly on the earth as we possibly can. For those of you who own property that includes any amount of outside space, I highly recommend rewilding your yard. I was doing this long before it was considered cool, simply because I absolutely hate to mow.

I’m not suggesting that you should let your yard go to rack and ruin. But there’s nothing wrong with leaving at least part of your garden in its natural state. At the very least, plan your garden with wildlife in mind.

For a start, do not use insecticides or herbicides. (As far as I’m concerned, Roundup is the dirtiest word on earth. Please don’t use Roundup! )

Rewilding’s primary goal is biodiversity, whereas most yards are all about looking manicured and pristine. It’s just not natural. In my opinion, one of the worst things that could have ever happened to the world was the human obsession with lawns that started in medieval Europe and has been plaguing the world ever since.

The reason that lawns take so much effort to maintain is that they’re not nature’s status quo. You must constantly battle nature in order to maintain a lawn. That should tell you all you need to know about the foolishness of that endeavor. Consider allowing some of your grass to go long and don’t engage in a battle of the weeds.

The things we often call weeds we should instead call native plants. (Unless the weeds are invasive species, which is another result of our hubris.) These native plants are usually what native insects need to survive. They are feasted upon by butterflies and bees. Dandelions support a whole host of insects. Why do we have such a problem with dandelions?

And I hate to tell you this, but the reason you feel the need for so much fertilizer is that when you dig up your soil you’re killing off the micro-organisms that plants need to survive. Instead of digging up, consider mulching. Adding organic mulch allows the soil to naturally balance itself out. Trust nature to do its thing.

And why are we bagging up all those leaves? Instead, leave a pile in a corner of your garden. Many creatures make their homes in leaves.

Also, if possible, leave some gaps in your fencing so that small mammals can pass through. In their search for food, they are encountering more and more human barriers. How rude of us.

And it’s important for us to start viewing pavement for what it truly is: scars upon the landscape. Keep your sidewalks and paved driveways to a minimum. Concrete is bad.

If concrete is bad, bugs are good. Bugs in your garden signal a healthy ecosystem. And bugs are food for birds and small mammals. You want bugs. You don’t need to buy a fancy bug house to accommodate invertebrates. Not only is that leaf pile quite a cozy habitat, but a wood pile is wonderful as well. So are dead or dying trees and plants, as well as piles of rocks.

If each of us just allowed even a portion of our yards to go wild, we could make a huge difference for wildlife. But don’t go too wild with your rewilding. If you notice that one particular plant is starting to dominate, cut it back. You want variety and diversity, not a monocrop.

For some delightful rewilding ideas, head over to the GardeningEtc website. In particular, check out this article on rewilding while there. You’ll be glad you did.

As this picture demonstrates, there’s nothing more beautiful than a field of wildflowers. Consider creating your own, or, better yet, allow it to happen naturally.

The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library!

We Are Animals

Many of us mean well. Some of us really do try to do the right thing. But…

Many of us assume that we humans are superior to other animals on the planet. No one actively promoted this belief to me. Maybe I picked it up by osmosis as a child. I think it’s a common attitude held by many religions, so perhaps I got it there. But I have to confess that my gut reaction is to not lump humanity in with other creatures.

I think that some people would even take exception to the fact that I’m calling humans animals. They’d find it insulting. In fact, there are several definitions of the word, and upon close inspection, they seem rather contradictory.

1.	a living organism that feeds on organic matter, typically having specialized sense organs and nervous system and able to respond rapidly to stimuli. 
2.	an animal as opposed to a human being. 
3.	a mammal, as opposed to a bird, reptile, fish, or insect. 
4.	a person without human attributes or civilizing influences, especially someone who is very cruel, violent, or repulsive. 
5.	a particular type of person or thing. 

While a different attitude may not come naturally to me, the more I see what people are capable of, the more I realize that this sense of superiority so many of us hold is absurd. On the whole, we are the most destructive, selfish, cruel and greedy creatures on earth. If anything, we have a lot to learn from the natural world.

In many ways, non-human animals are superior. They don’t tend to destroy their environments. They don’t usually wage war or commit murder. Their worst lies are along the lines of, “I didn’t destroy the couch cushions! Really! It was the cat!”

The more we study other animals, the more we find that they can and do help one another, even if they’re not of the same species. Many are loyal and loving. They like to play. Predators may seem cruel on nature programs when they’re hunting, but there’s no evil intent there.

Those animals that we deem to be a nuisance have only been made so because we’ve taken away their natural habitat and have forced them to survive in our unnatural one. Is it any surprise that these circumstances have brought out the worst in them? Whose fault is that?

We have so many more choices and opportunities than other animals do. We could be a force for good. It’s shameful that so many of us choose to behave badly. I’m not saying that all humans suck 100% of the time. Many of us mean well. Some of us really do try to do the right thing. But it’s those baser tendencies that we all seem to have to resist in order to be good that have me increasingly worried about our future.

If you want to see the very worst of humanity, hop on over to Reddit, to the PublicFreakout subreddit. On that page you’ll find footage of people freaking out on planes and getting kicked off, Karens throwing fits because they aren’t getting special treatment, bigoted individuals showing their true colors, people who feel wronged seeking revenge instead of justice, students attacking teachers, customers attacking restaurant staff, people overreacting because they have to wait, road rage, police brutality, intimidation, assault, theft, and all manner of political outrages.

Really, it’s appalling. I know it’s a frustrating world out there, but violence, cruelty, selfishness, and dominance are not the answers. Poor choices are not working for us as a species. It feels like we are devolving, and there are so many of us that that is a scary prospect, indeed.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go hug my dog.

The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library!

The Great Rescue Dog Migration

More and more southern rescue dogs are being sent northward. Here’s why.

American history is riddled with stories about domestic migration. It’s a rare citizen who lives their whole life in the place they were born these days. Humans relocate for many reasons. They move to industrialized areas from agricultural areas in order to gain employment. They move to avoid slavery or oppressive laws. They move to avoid high crime rates and high taxes. They relocate to secure better education for their children. They flee parts of the country that no longer offer affordable housing. When the political culture of an area becomes unpalatable, or the intolerance becomes unbearable, they vote with their feet.

Humans are nomadic by nature. We go West, young man. We head for the coast. We go North to Alaska. We retire in Florida. It will be interesting to see the ripple effects of the increased opportunities to work remotely. It’s a safe bet that we’ll see more people living where they want to as opposed to living where they have to.

We come by this honestly. The first peoples were nomadic as well. And it is often said that we’re a nation of immigrants. Wild animals quite often migrate, too. They move with the weather or the food and water or the mating opportunities. It is the most natural thing in the world for a living creature to want to improve its lot in life.

But there is a new migration taking place in this country, and it is probably one of the very few good things to have come about, in part, due to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It’s called Pet Transport, and it’s the relocation of rescue animals, the vast majority of which are dogs, from the Southern US to the North. Before these transports became commonplace, the kill rate at Southern shelters was obscenely high, sometimes as much as 70 percent.

There are many reasons for this abysmal statistic. Many Southern dog owners can’t afford to have their pets spayed or neutered, and they also struggle to care for them when they fall ill and therefore some pets are abandoned. The increased heat in the south means longer breeding seasons, and more issues such as heartworm disease and parvo. In rural areas, animals are often allowed to roam free, and are not exactly treated as members of the family. In some cases, animals aren’t spayed or neutered because of the mistaken impression that they won’t make good hunting dogs after that procedure, or people believe they will make great profits from puppy mills and wind up dumping puppies on the side of the road instead. This leads to rampant overpopulation and increased transmission of disease.

There always seem to be more dogs to adopt than there are people to adopt them in the South. When I moved from Florida to Washington State, I was quite surprised to realize that I didn’t see stray dogs everywhere. In Florida they ran around in packs. Here, I think I’ve seen 4 strays in 9 years. Total.

Recently, one of our dogs went to Rainbow Bridge, and we miss her terribly, but my dog Quagmire, in particular, was suffering from that loss, so we decided to adopt another dog. I had always wanted a Golden Retriever, but I quickly discovered that finding a dog is not easy in Washington. There were no rescue Goldens to be had. (Yet another thing that has been ripped off my bucket list against my will in recent years.)

But I quickly realized that, somehow, I always manage to adopt the best dog in the whole world anyway. And besides, mixed breeds tend to be healthier. So we looked at the websites of area shelters, and then went to my old standby,

Naturally, there were hundreds of dogs to choose from, but we wanted a young, female, larger breed dog, so that narrowed the search considerably.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of Pit Bull mixes out there, and you can read my thoughts on that particular breed here. Bottom line, Pit Bulls are a hard no from me.

I was starting to get really discouraged, because we just weren’t seeing any local rescue dogs that “spoke” to us. (Woof!) But I kept seeing notices for “Out of Town” dogs, and that’s when I learned about pet transport.

According to an article entitled “Rescue Network Sends Southern Puppies North”, this transport trend started because many dogs had been abandoned as their owners had to flee hurricanes. So a volunteer network cropped up to get these animals out of the path of the storms and their resulting destruction, and it was a huge success. Rather than being part of an ever-increasing southern shelter kill rate, these pets were rehomed to families up north.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, where there are so many people who responsibly spay and neuter their pets, there are usually more adopters than there are pets to adopt, which on the whole is a good thing for the dogs in question, but it makes it rather difficult for those of us who are looking to add a new furry family member to our household.

After reading up on pet transports via that article, and also on the Petfinder FAQ, I thought maybe we could look at dogs that are a bit farther afield than we had originally planned. It is important to work with a legitimate adoption agency to make sure you’re not getting caught up in a scam where they take your money and don’t produce the dog. But I trust Petfinder. Read their FAQ and it will tell you all the questions you need to ask before getting involved in this process.

We were lucky in that we found a rescue organization with an excellent reputation. Helping Paws Okanagan is an organization out of Canada that helps place dogs from Texas into homes in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. They have a network of trusted foster families in Texas, and they work closely with shelters in Texas that are always full to bursting with dogs in need. They also use a transport company that takes excellent care of the dogs in question once they’re adopted by a northern family and need relocating.

Helping Paws also guarantees that your new pet is already given a clean bill of health by a Texas veterinarian, and all the dogs are vaccinated, spayed or neutered, microchipped and treated for parasites before they’re even sent to your home. They also give great advice on the best way of transitioning your new pet to reduce its stress.

And believe me, the trust has to go both ways. Helping Paws is very good at vetting humans, too. (See what I did there?) They require recommendations from your friends and also your family vet, as well as pictures of your living conditions, and phone interviews long before they’ll send a dog off to a new home. It’s quite clear that they genuinely care about animal welfare. That made me feel secure. So we were sold on the transport idea, and decided it was time to look at some out of town dogs.

That’s when we saw Ashley.

Who could resist such a uniquely beautiful dog? This is her puppy picture. She has grown a lot since then, but she still has that unusual grey coloring in front, and red in back, and the sweetest, yet most enthusiastic disposition you’ll ever see in a dog. At 50 pounds, we have to take the training seriously, or she’ll bowl us over if we’re ever standing between her and food. She is a kibble vacuum.

We got Ashley on April Fool’s Day, ironically enough, and we renamed her Coda. Quagmire is quite intrigued by her, but is still insisting on showing her who’s boss. I’m sure they’ll settle in in no time, but meanwhile they are only allowed to interact with supervision and for brief periods.

We are so grateful to Helping Paws Okanagan, and her foster family in Texas, and the vets there and here, and the transport company. They all took such good care of our girl. She’s been through a lot. She was found as a stray, wandering around in the county just east of Houston. Then she was in a pound with a high kill rate, then in a very patient foster home for many, many, many months, then she traveled about 2,300 miles to her forever home with us. None of this could have happened without a lot of really caring human beings that we’ll always think of fondly.

I’m sorry to say that many people are giving up pets that they acquired during COVID lockdown. That, along with a depressed economy, means rescue organizations are having a harder time placing pets than they ever have before. So, if you’re looking for a dog, now’s the time to step forward. I highly recommend Helping Paws Okanagan. Check out their available pets, and contact Lesley. If you’re a good match, I’m sure she’ll make it happen for you! She can be reached at

Even if you aren’t currently able to take care of a dog, this organization could sure use your support to continue doing their good works. Since they’re in Canada, donations from America won’t be tax deductible, but it’s still a worthy cause. Send your donations through Paypal, to that same email address above. Tell them Barb sent you! Your American dollars will stretch even further in Canada!

I’ll leave you with some pictures of our sweet Coda making herself at home. Now she can live happily ever after. Don’t you just love a happy ending?

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book!

Can We Forge a Healthy Rivalry?

It’s okay to disagree. If the stakes aren’t too high it can even be fun.

Opinion pieces, including editorials, should always be taken with a grain of salt. Yes, I’m aware of the irony here. The bulk of my blog posts are opinion pieces, including this one. But I tend to avoid these types of articles when the source is not, well… me.

We all know what opinions are like, and that everybody has one. But given the current societal stress level, I prefer to read about things as they are, with or without suggestions for ways to improve them, rather than expose myself to rants designed to incite fear and further division. I am trying really hard to pick my battles and resist the extreme edges of my thought bubble these days.

But the other day I was bored. And I knew that a certain opinion piece was bound to infuriate me. Even the headline infuriated me with its obvious bias about illegal immigration. I was actually surprised that it had popped up on my newsfeed, given the algorithm that I’m sure has been created for me based on years of searches. But having nothing better to do, I decided to read on, because it’s good to see how other people view the world, even when you can only take so much foolishness.

This article did not disappoint. It definitely exposed me to an entirely different worldview, as did the accompanying comments by readers. It was actually rather horrifying, because the bulk of what these people believe can be easily disproved. And yet they were dedicated (dare I say “evangelical”?) to these theories. It saddened me to see, once again, just how gullible humans can be.

The thing is, they would probably think the same of me. I know darned well I’m biased, but I’d like to think that much of my bias is supported by facts. I’d also like to think that I employ critical thinking more often than not. But I’m probably biased about that as well. Aren’t we all?

One comment that the immigration article prompted, though, actually made my blood run cold, especially since so many people liked and responded to it. One woman actually said, “The border is open because the Democrats enjoy drug and child trafficking.”

C’mon. Seriously? Do you honestly believe that the average human, regardless of their politics, would be encouraging drug and child trafficking? Then you live in a very sheltered and extremely warped world.

Normally, one would assume that this type of comment would be made by some troll who was attempting to rile people up. But you had to read the room. She was preaching to her own special choir. The echo chamber for this article was so loud that very few people, including me, even bothered to try to express an opposing viewpoint. This was no troll. This was a true believer.

Her mindset rattled me, because I cannot believe that any person can hold such unreasonable thoughts in their head with such obvious enthusiasm. The stench inside her skull must be overwhelming. Either that, or she has completely lost her grip on reality, and is taking her cohort with her.

Here’s the thing. I’m not ashamed to say that I despise everything about the Republican philosophy. But there are people in my life that I know believe in that philosophy in whole or in part, and I know that at heart they’re genuinely good people, even if I think they’re disastrously misinformed on certain topics. We just  avoid talking about politics or religion, and we get along just fine. It’s really not hard to maintain relationships with people when there is a mutual respect for boundaries.

I used to try to change people’s minds, but I’m coming to realize that that’s quite often impossible. I’m also getting a much better understanding of my own limits and energy levels, and the older I get, the more I see that life is way too short for many of these debates. Preserving my mental health is a much higher priority for me.

Could I be friends with a politician or activist who is dedicated to pushing the Republican agenda? Absolutely not. But most of us are not at that level of commitment, and I think influencing friends and coworkers through example has much more impact than any shouting match ever could. And so I live and let live, or at least I try to.

Yes, I attend the occasional protest. Yes, I make my views quite clear on this blog. And because I’m autistic, if someone asks me for an opinion, I’ll definitely give them one. But mostly, I’m just putting one foot in front of the other like most people are.

We don’t all have to agree. In fact, that is an insurmountable goal which I’m not willing to try to reach. The price is too high to pay.

For the most part, I agree with Anne Frank, though. “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

And, in spite of everything, I also believe that most people agree with that statement. It’s just that we have all been actively pushed toward polarization in recent years, and in this anonymous internet age, it’s very easy to express our extremes without challenges or consequences. But I don’t think it has to be this way.

I know some sports fans who get extremely polarized while watching a game, but the next day they can be cordial with someone who rooted for the opposing team. It’s called rivalry, not war. It doesn’t have to escalate to DEFCON 1.

I hope that someday we can all remember that it’s okay to disagree. If the stakes aren’t too high it can even be fun. It’s also okay to compromise. Because this place we find ourselves in right now as a society is untenable and increasingly unpalatable.

Like this quirky little blog? Then you’ll enjoy my book!

The Mennonite Women of Manitoba County

The horrible truth behind the amazing Movie, Women Talking.

Warning: this post deals with rape, and may be triggering for some and inappropriate for others. Proceed at your own risk.

In my last post, I discussed the not-to-be-missed movie, Women Talking. Today, I’ll discuss the real life scenario which inspired this film. I wish I could tell you that the truth was as heartening as the fiction was.

The pivotal point between the fact and the fiction is that there is a Mennonite colony in Manitoba County in Bolivia in which many of the woman have been systematically drugged and then raped by their men and boys for years. The women kept waking up with crashing headaches (the drug was originally intended for livestock), and their bodies would be bruised and bloodied, often articles of clothing would be missing, and there would be dirt in their sheets. Some women were impregnated. Some children as young as 3 years old were similarly abused. Fortunately, one perpetrator was finally caught and gave up 8 other individuals, and now 8 of them are in prison while the 9th absconded to another country.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could tie this horrific story up in a neat little bow as the movie does? Justice is served and life goes on. Sadly, we live in the real world. This is the point at which reality and the movie part company.

To explain the reality, I need to back up a bit. Mennonites have been around in one form or another since the 1520’s. You will find them in at least 83 countries throughout the world. Some communities have a much closer relationship to the modern world than others. It runs the gamut from those that reject all things modern to those who blend in with the larger community and are all but indistinguishable from their non-Mennonite neighbors.

I take no issue with Mennonites in general. Every adult should have a right to create their own society and come up with the rules under which that society will function, provided it does no harm to the wider community. But the operative phrase here, is “every adult”.

When communities are created that deprive a subset of their people from having any sort of agency at all, those people, whether they realize it or not, become slaves. They have no control or power over their own lives, and when they suffer abuses, they are given no voice to address them. This is unconscionable, but it happens more often than we care to acknowledge.

Such is the fate of the Mennonite women of Manitoba County, who find themselves on the very extreme edge of the Mennonite philosophical spectrum. Girls in this community are even less educated than their brothers, who are “at least” allowed to go to school until they turn 13. Their language is Low German. The girls and women are never taught to speak Spanish as the boys are, so they are incapable of speaking to the wider Bolivian world.

All the rules that govern their society are determined by 9 ministers, and those ministers are elected by men only. The community is devoid of law enforcement, because when they decided to relocate to Bolivia, they got the Bolivian government to agree to only step in in cases of murder. The ministers feel they should be able to handle any other problems that arise.

So, when some of these women finally realized that they were not the only ones who were being raped, and that this wasn’t some supernatural punishment from God or some sinister visitation from a demon, they tried to speak up. They were promptly told that this was women’s hysteria, and that they were imagining all of it. They were reminded that a woman’s role is to obey and submit.

And so the violence carried on for four more years. That’s when the one rapist was caught and everything seemed to fall apart like a house of cards. Finally, the ministers realized that this was not something that they could sweep under the rug or handle on their own.

They had contemplated building jail cells and imprisoning these men for life. It sounded like a more viable option than lynching them, which had happened to a rapist in a nearby Mennonite community. But the jail cell solution sounded grueling and unsustainable, so instead they took these criminals to the nearest city to allow Bolivian justice to be served.

The end? If only.

The main tenet of this community is that if you repent your sins, you will be forgiven. Since these men confessed (at first, anyway) the rest of the men in the community would have been quite happy to allow these sick men back into their midst. And the women were instructed to forgive these men. If the women were incapable of the forgiveness that their religious philosophy dictates, then they themselves would not be forgiven by God, so in essence the victims would be re-victimized for all eternity.

The unforgiving women would also be banished from the only community they had ever known, and what would they do then? They don’t even know where they are on the planet, having never seen a map. They don’t speak Spanish. They are taught that everything in the outside world was evil. And they are deprived of the education that would allow them to thrive in the wider world. So where were they supposed to go?

In the movie, they meet in a hayloft to have an almost scholarly debate about how they wish to move forward in light of these crimes. They make a plan for their future and execute it. I am woman, hear me roar!

In reality, to this very day, most of the victims in Manitoba County are still there and never talk about what happened. They weren’t even allowed to testify or even attend the trials. The plaintiffs were 5 men who where either husbands or fathers of some of the victims.

Oh, but it gets worse. When the wide world heard about these heinous acts, the broader Mennonite community offered to send counselors who spoke low German to help these women heal. But the ministers, and their men (their men!) did not see the point of it. What did these women need to heal from? After all, it all happened when they were unconscious.

Some reporters believe, based on interviews, that the women were never even told about the offer of counseling. So they are caught in a cycle of victim shaming and forced forgiveness and silence. That must be hell on earth.

But it gets worse still. Many in the community have told the reporters that all the rapists were not caught, and that these drugged rapes continue to this day. Less frequently, perhaps, but they still occur. And they suspect that the rapists are often their own brothers and fathers. Many people in the community now live with bars on their windows and doors, but that doesn’t keep the men who reside under their own roofs away.

There are rumors that incest ran rampant through this community even before livestock tranquilizers were brought into the mix. And when incest accusations were lodged before the ministers, they would banish those men, who would then take their families, including the victims, with them. That kind of justice doesn’t exactly encourage one to step forward.

So I suppose the women can’t be blamed for thinking that they have no recourse but to put up with this nightmare and try to make the best of it. Only a small percentage of them left. The rest are still there to this very day.

Persecution is practically in this sect’s DNA. As I said, the Mennonite doctrine came about in the 1520’s, during the Protestant Reformation in Europe. Pacifists by nature, many of them fled to Russia. By the 1870’s, Russia was no longer a welcoming place for them either, so they relocated to Canada. There, rather than living a simple life, they began to modernize. The more conservative factions of this group did not like the influence Canada was having on their people.

In the 1920’s, the most conservative among them finally had enough when Canada suggested that they should teach their children in English and adopt their standard curriculum rather than only teaching them from the bible. This faction relocated once again, this time to Mexico and Paraguay. Those governments promised to leave them alone and let them live the way they wanted to.

But in the 1960’s, even Mexico was becoming less tolerant, so they fled to more remote parts of Latin America, particularly Belize and Bolivia. These Old Colonists, as they’re called, are running out of places to go. They are left behind by the modern world, just as they wish to be, but that modern world is becoming less patient with them and their draconian lawlessness with each passing year.

I think of these victimized women, isolated deep within a country that doesn’t speak their language. We will never know for sure what is happening to them in real time. There’s no way to contact them. Outsiders are unwelcome. They don’t read. There’s no internet. There are no phones. And even if the Mennonite women of Manitoba County did find a way to speak to us, the horrible words they’d need to speak have, for the most part, been left out of their vocabulary. On purpose.

To learn more about the plight of these women, check out the following:

When Women Talk

There’s a reason we’re so often interrupted.

I just saw the most profoundly simple and yet the most intensely complex movie I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s a movie that could change us all if we let it.

It is based on the true story of a group of Mennonite women and children as young as 3 in Bolivia who have been tranquilized and brutally raped by their men and boys for years. I’ll have much more to say about this in my next blog post. First, though, let’s concentrate on this incredible movie, entitled Women Talking.

I know that discussions of this type of brutality can be triggering for some, and might make them want to avoid this movie. Let me reassure you that the abuses themselves are not shown. Just as the women in Bolivia did, the characters in this film wake up, confused, bruised, and bloody, knowing something horrible had happened, but not knowing exactly what.

For a long time, they are not believed. (The hysterical woman trope will plague us for centuries.) Then one night one of the rapists is caught, and he gives up the name of 8 others. Never having had to deal with such horrific crimes before, the colony leaders decide to give these criminals to the government for prosecution.

It appears that justice will be served. But based on their religious beliefs, the women in this colony know they will be expected to forgive these heinous acts if the men confess and repent. They are expected to look the other way and not speak of the violence that has washed over them in bloody waves. And they have a 2 day window in which they are expected to make this adjustment.

So, while the rest of the colony men are dragging the criminals into the city, many of the women and girls gather together in a hayloft to decide how to move forward. They are faced with three choices. Do nothing. Stay and Fight. Leave.

Soon, it becomes quite clear that they cannot do nothing. One woman points out that her 4-year-old daughter was one of the victims. What woman could stand by and do nothing under those circumstances? And the fact that domestic violence and incest run rampant in the community as well can no longer be ignored.

Do they want to stay and fight and build a colony that’s more equitable, that allows women to have a voice, that provides them with literacy and an education and gives them the opportunity to say no, or do they want leave everything they’ve ever known and go into a strange world plotted out only on maps that they have never even seen?

The debate becomes more complicated as the movie progresses. Do they raise their small boys in the shadows of their violent fathers, or do they teach them a new way? At what age do boys become potentially dangerous? 10? 13? 15? Is their freedom and the ability to keep their children safe more important to them than tradition and family and the comfort of the things that they’ve always known? How will they support themselves when they can’t even read?

In addition, until now they have never had the words to speak about their bodies and how they should be treated. Can they ever be silenced again? Many of these women have fallen pregnant due to these rapes. Will they be able to love these children?

I won’t further spoil the movie for you, but I urge you to see it. Even though these women live vastly different lives than most of us do, the movie’s themes will still resonate with most women. Especially the central theme, which is that women are discouraged from talking in general.

There’s a reason why we are so often interrupted, ignored, discounted, dismissed, overruled, and left out of the discussion entirely. Women talking, especially to one another, gives us strength, determination, knowledge, insight and courage. Women talking allows us to see possibilities that we’re often too busy or too undermined to contemplate on our own. Women talking equates to power, and many elements of society are very threatened when we access this power in any way.

Do you ever wonder why women make up approximately half the population of the world, and yet we are the oppressed minorities, to one degree or another, in every single country? In my opinion, it all boils down to two things: childbearing and communication. The powers that be actively work to take control of our reproductive rights, and more subtly, keep us separated as much as they can.

Some countries and religions would prefer that we have as many children as possible whether we like it or not. From their emotionless standpoint, children are valuable commodities, as they become our future workers, soldiers, and consumers. Our wombs are the factories in which these commodities are produced.

There’s also the societal “side benefit” that pregnancy, to a certain extent, incapacitates us for 9 months each time. Yes, it’s possible to still work and carry on with life in that condition, but let’s face it, most of us would not be running any marathons in the third trimester or building houses or winning any fights should we be forced to defend ourselves. And afterward, it’s really hard to become a captain of industry when you have a toddler in tow. Meanwhile, a scary percentage of men  don’t provide the child support that they should, which forces many women into a level of poverty that they should never have to endure.

Other societal factions go to the opposite extreme and attempt to prevent us from having children even when we want them. Perhaps they have concerns about overpopulation. Maybe they view certain women as being unfit to reproduce. Eugenics is alive and well, as is forced sterilization.

We don’t discuss any of these topics nearly as often as we should. Even so, most women know that the struggle with these issues is worldwide. It is the ultimate power play to make our voices go unheard.

We Americans are taught to believe that we have more freedom than any other people on earth, but that’s a lie. Our health care system is abysmal for starters, which undermines this country’s very foundation. And the illusion that women’s rights are taken seriously has been challenged by the fact that there is such an insane pay gap between genders, and to make matters worse, Roe vs. Wade has always been under threat and has now been overturned. We should not overlook the fact that men’s bodies are not restricted in any way by legislation, and they never will be.

I haven’t felt like an American citizen since that moment when my right to choose was stripped from me, and I doubt I ever will feel like one again. Women, in general, are only tolerated if they can be controlled. And what better way to restrict a woman than by taking control of a bodily function?

Keeping us from talking to one another is a part of that control. We don’t seem to notice it as much as the reproductive rights issue, but it’s still pervasive. Men still hang out. They go to bars, they watch sports. It’s much less accepted when women do those things. Instead, we’re kept so busy that we barely notice that we don’t get together very often. We’re expected to stay home and make sandwiches and change diapers. At work we are pitted against one another, fighting over what few breadcrumbs the men see fit to toss in our direction. This, too, is a form of control.

It is important for each one of us to think about the things that tie us down and the things that allow us to fly. We could fly a lot higher if we were more cohesive, but ultimately, each woman has to choose her own path and remember that as she does so, she is also forging a better path for the young women of the future. If things remain as they are, these changes will be so incremental that we’ll barely notice them in our lifetimes. And it’s quite obvious that we’re more than capable of backsliding. We must remain vigilant if we want to make any progress at all.

I won’t tell you what the women in the movie decide to do. You’ll have to see for yourself. I will tell you that the real life women in Bolivia have made entirely different choices. I’ll discuss that in the next post.

I urge you to see Women Talking. I was disappointed that it didn’t win an Oscar for best picture, but it was up against some stiff competition. As with life, timing can be everything.

I will leave you with this: The last sentence in the movie, spoken by a woman to an infant, is, “your story will be different from ours.” It is up to us to determine whether that will be good news or bad, but I’m choosing to look at it as cause for hope.

Three cheers for differences.

Read any good books lately? Try mine!

Manufactured Hysteria

People who encourage fear and hatred and incite violence make up the vilest portion of the lunatic fringe

I apologize if my blog causes you some emotional whiplash today, dear reader. In my last post I wrote about Mr. Rogers and the importance of liking people just the way they are. Today I’m going to the opposite extreme, because I’m disgusted.

I just read an NPR article entitled, “In Florida, far-right groups look to seize the moment”. The hateful imagery drew me in. It was of a swastika intertwined with a cross, and it was projected on the side of a building that I know all too well. It is one of the skyscrapers in Jacksonville, Florida, a city I lived in and struggled to free myself from for 28 years. Just when I thought I couldn’t be more grateful for leaving that place, something like this crops up.

It seems that a white nationalist hate group has taken to projecting its disgusting messages on buildings with a laser projector so they can be seen from miles around. This story would have me outraged no matter where it was taking place, but it really hit home for me because one of the photographs in this article shows one of the drawbridges I used to work on in the background. If I were still there, I’d have had a front row seat for these odious messages, whether I liked it or not.

I absolutely refuse to use those images in this blog post. If you want to see them, you can go to the source article. I also refuse to utter this group’s name, because that’s what they want, isn’t it? They want to normalize hate imagery, and recruit more gullible, stupid young white males to their cause. Not today. Not on this blog.

By investing in a laser projector, these pathetic individuals can pretend that their message is more mainstream than it actually is. The truth is that this 40-foot-tall abomination was being projected by 3 or 4 pathetically misinformed young men in masks. They were huddled in some back alley while they played with their expensive little toy. They posted a lookout and were prepared to run away like the mangy curs that they are if they saw any sign of law enforcement approaching. That’s proof positive that they know that what they’re doing is wrong.

Advertisers of more benign products would kill for this type of exposure. No doubt thousands of people saw this crap on the night in question. I bet those boys were dancing with glee.

It seems that they like to project a variety of messages. They are flagrant antisemites, and they seem to be suffering from some sort of homosexual panic, given their targeting of LGBTQ+ people, and especially, at the moment, drag queens. Their white supremacist, pro-nazi agenda is sickening to witness, and it appalls me that so many young men, who could otherwise be a much-needed force for good, will instead get sucked in to this warped agenda.

I was surprised to learn that the City of Jacksonville has an ordinance the makes it illegal to project images onto a building without the owner’s consent. Unless that city has changed drastically from when I was fortunate enough to leave it in 2014, its city council, along with its law enforcement agencies, demonstrate by their behavior that they have that same racist agenda. I suspect these back alley slime balls won’t get caught because no one employed by the city really wants them to get caught. I also suspect that the only reason the ordinance passed was that the big corporations who own these buildings and work hard to maintain their brands were screaming bloody murder. (It’s a sad day when I side with corporations.)

Unfortunately, even if Jacksonville decided to enforce this ordinance, it probably wouldn’t stand up in court. As this article explains, hate speech only stops being free speech when it causes specific, imminent, and serious harm, like a genuine threat that causes fear in a specific group and it makes this group believe it will be subject to violence.

Sadly, in this country, it seems that hate speech is okay if there’s not an immediate call to action involved. If this group were stupid enough to project, “Let’s kill all the (fill in the blank) TODAY!” they might be in trouble. But statements like, “Drag Queens want to indoctrinate your children!”? No problem. With such a dramatic platform, this tiny little group with its tiny little minds will find ways to carry on and gain new members who actually believe in conspiracy theories and race wars and stupidity in general.

Frankly, I couldn’t care less whether hate speech is free speech or not. ANY speech which causes a targeted group to not feel safe enough to peacefully walk through the world is not okay. The yardstick should be, “Does this speech or imagery cause legitimate fear in an individual or group?” Swastikas do that. The sign below does not. It’s that simple.

I’m quite sure that Florida is a relatively safe place for hate groups to do their recruiting, since Governor DeSantis has been known to espouse this type of rhetoric himself. He has managed to get books pulled out of elementary schools if there’s even a hint of perceived scandal or the tiniest shred of diversity in them. He promotes the conspiracy theory that critical race theory is taught to minors (it isn’t and never has been.) Like these groups, he’s all about manufactured hysteria because the actual truth, that people who encourage fear and hatred and incite violence make up the vilest portion of the lunatic fringe, would never gain them any followers.

Hate is kind of like leprosy. It causes portions of society to wither and fall away. Hate groups may think they’re getting what they want when this happens, but in the end, the system as a whole is diminished because of it. It becomes deformed and ineffective. It’s not healthy.

Upon hearing this story, I immediately thought of Club Metro, a gay club that was located just a few short blocks from the home I used to own in Jacksonville. I went to a few drag shows there, and imagine this: I did not see any young minds being warped during these events! Metro had a welcoming, all-inclusive adult atmosphere, and I enjoyed my visits. It was one of the few LGBTQ+ venues in a city full of people who are forced to remain closeted most of the time for their own safety.

I wondered how Metro was faring under the increased atmosphere of hate since 2016. I was not surprised to find that it has closed its doors. An article from 2021 said that they weren’t able to survive the pandemic. Instead, drive in movies were being shown in the parking lot, and they hoped to move the club to a smaller venue.

We may be acting like the pandemic has slacked off, but the hate certainly hasn’t, and I’m sure that played an unspoken part in Metro’s demise as well. An article from early 2022 said that the original location is now a self-storage facility, and the club’s website no longer exists.

That news made me want to cry. There are enough soulless self-storage facilities in this country. What we really need are more hate-free zones. I was thrilled to see that the nearby Boot Rack Saloon is still going strong, but the place was so tiny that I doubt it was able to pick up the Metro slack. According to an out of date LGBTQ+ travel guide for Jacksonville that I found during my lazy hetero internet search, it is one of the few gay bars left in a city with nearly 1 million people.

Pathetic. I’m glad I no longer have to immerse myself in the fetid pool that is Jacksonville, Florida. I might have caught something incurable.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book!

Newsflash: Your Kids Aren’t That Fragile

Stop using false childhood fragility in order to try to force your agenda on the world.

I am sick to death of children being used as an excuse for our horrible behavior. They’re used as pawns in nasty divorces. If we want to eat junk food, we claim we bought it for the children in our lives. Those children also become a handy excuse to get out of social obligations. Adults hate to admit to breaking things, so they blame it on the 3-year-old.

All those things are unacceptable, but even worse, in my opinion, is that we use children as political chess pieces as well. Want to control what people learn? Ban books and prevent certain subjects from being taught by saying that children might get their feelings hurt or be confused or get the wrong idea about what’s appropriate. If you wish to marginalize the LGBTQ+ community because they scare you, all you have to do is claim that they might just indoctrinate your children, as if anyone can run counter to one’s own orientation just by receiving some sort of nefarious (and completely fictionalized) pep talk.

These political shenanigans may seem like they’re on the rise these days, because hate speech and manipulation have become more mainstream since 2016, but the truth is that we’ve been carrying on like this for decades, if not for centuries. For some reason, this song from the Music Man just popped into my head. Yes, ya got trouble. Allowing your kids to play pool will corrupt them for life!

We’ve also claimed that dancing leads to fornication, and that kids who watch too much television become autistic, and that strangers are always much more dangerous than relatives. None of these claims are true, but once you throw the word “kids” into the mix, logic flies right out the window. We have to protect the children!

Protecting children is one thing. Sheltering them from the real world is quite another. Learning to coexist with people who look and behave differently than you do is mission critical if you wish to become a fully functional member of society. Teaching children intolerance makes them spend their lives attempting to exist within a narrow set of rules, and watching everyone around them break these rules on a daily basis will simply make an intolerant child turn into a bitter, reactive, selectively judgmental adult.

Your kids are a lot more resilient than you think they are. If you ever get the opportunity to be around kids that aren’t your own, in that moment when they’re able to drop the façade that they’re forced to wear when they are around their parents or guardians, you’ll quickly see that they are, and will always be, their own people. They will form their own opinions whether you like it or not. You can try to force them to go through life with blinders on, but that will only cause them to turn their heads at sharper angles the minute you leave the scene.

It is much healthier to expose your kids to as much as you can in life. Give them the opportunity to think things through and ask questions while they have caring adults in their lives to help them figure things out. Allow them to approach life with curiosity and enthusiasm rather than hate and fear. Instill in them the importance of having a moral compass and compassion for others, and then trust that they will be capable of making good choices for themselves.  

Otherwise, you are forcing them to become hollow vessels that can easily be filled with fear and hate. You’ll turn them into tools to be manipulated, and believe me, there will be plenty of people out there who are willing to manipulate anyone who has not been shown how to think critically. That’s no way to go through life.

Here’s an example from my own life: I lived with someone for 16 years without getting married. My born-again Christian sister (who had been married three times and used to live in a hippie commune), informed me that her kids wouldn’t be allowed to come to visit me anymore because we were living in sin. My response was, “If you do that, I refuse to take part in the lesson you will teaching them, which is that people who do not have the exact same belief system that you do should be shunned, avoided, and judged. That sets them up to become intolerant of the vast majority of the people in the world, and will cause them to have lives that are much more puny and monochrome than they deserve.”

We continued to visit eachother a couple times a year, and the subject never came up again. I doubt my sister got the lesson, though. I just think it suddenly occurred to her that she really wouldn’t fare well if I started throwing stones at her glass house.

The reason I’m thinking about this subject is that I just stumbled across a fascinating article on the History website about how some major cities were banning pinball machines in the 1940’s. Politicians decided that pinball was a menace to society. The article goes on to say:

“While law enforcement and civic groups looked askance at pinball for its gambling connections, churches and school boards also argued that it corrupted the morals of America’s children by encouraging them to steal coins, skip school in order to play and even go hungry by wasting their money on the frivolous pursuit.”

Imagine. There was once a time when police in New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Milwaukee were raiding candy stores, movie theaters, and bowling alleys, confiscating pinball machines, and then smashing them with sledgehammers. This, of course, simply drove pinball machines underground and gave them seedy reputations that they didn’t originally have.

The Republicans attempted to sully the reputation of a Democratic Presidential candidate by claiming he was closely linked to pinball. That candidate was John F. Kennedy. It’s amusing how yesterday’s scandals seem so ridiculous today.

It seems that sucking the joy out of children’s lives is a heady, powerful feeling for some. Not since Burgermeister Meisterburger have we been more shameless in our pursuit of control at the expense of our children than we seem to be at present. See his irrational proclamation in the image below. It’s a difficult responsibility, indeed.

But here’s an idea. Stop being a bully. Pick on someone your own size. Don’t use false childhood fragility in order to try to force your agenda on the world. All you’ll do is narrow every child’s horizon to match your own narrow mind.

Instead, teach them to cope with the complex, diverse, ever-changing world in which they will be living. Change is inevitable, no matter how many tantrums you throw. So set your progeny up for success, and mind your own business when it comes to minors who aren’t under your supervision. Then maybe you’ll get lucky and your sons and daughters won’t look back at you and bitterly laugh at the rigid and ignorant world you attempted to force upon them.

If this little blog has broadened your horizons, check out my book!